Readers with a taste for the quirky will flock to this tale inspired by Flannery O’Connor’s love of peafowl.
In rural Georgia, little Flannery trains her chicken to walk backward, earning the duo a few moments in the spotlight and awakening in the child a taste for more excitement. An ever expanding assortment of feathered friends ensues, each individual bird delightfully expressive thanks to Nelson’s masterful collage illustrations in muted retro tones. A mail-order peacock is the seemingly inevitable crowning addition to this collection, but his coy reluctance to display his tail feathers demands creative problem-solving on the part of his young mistress. Books for young people about famous individuals whose work they cannot yet appreciate sometimes fall flat; in this case, the unexpected antics of birds and child sustain interest whether O’Connor’s name is familiar to readers or not. However, the book would have benefitted from more detailed biographical and source information than the brief concluding note (for example, no mention is made of O’Connor’s essay “King of the Birds,” which details her avian adventures).
Feathered friends of many varieties adorn this charming volume that evokes bygone times of unfettered outdoor play and highlights a little-known episode in the life of a remarkable woman, but the peacock truly rules the roost. (Picture book. 4-7)